Over one hundred years ago West Monroe was a thriving cotton town as it was easier to dock at Trent’s Landing on the west side of the Ouachita River than on the east side.
The area had two communities on the west side, known as Cottonport and Trenton.
The towns began to grow until a fire in 1873 destroyed the entire town of Trenton. The remaining town of Cottonport struggled until the 1880’s, when the railroad was built across the river and shipping by rail became faster and more dependable than by steamboat and the town of Cottonport began to grow. In 1884 the name was changed to West Monroe as the Federal Government ruled that no towns in a state could have the same name and there was a Cottonport already located in Avoyelles Parish.
West Monroe saw even greater growth upon completion of the Desiard Street (Endom) Bridge in 1899, allowing easy access to and from the Monroe side of the River. Commerce Street buildings were typically built around the turn of the century and catered to the river traffic. While Trenton Street is presently viewed as the main commercial corridor, Trenton Street buildings were built primarily in the 1920’s and 1930’s as West Monroe expanded and the commercial corridor moved away from the Ouachita River frontage.
Downtown has seen increased redevelopment of existing structures, but there have been few changes to improve traffic and pedestrian flow through downtown, until now.
The Downtown West Monroe Development Plan has been unveiled for public view. With these plans, the City of West Monroe continues to move forward to recreate the Downtown area for a modern era. While there is something special about repurposing the older buildings for today’s market,mthat is only part of the overall plan to appeal to a larger of number and variety of user groups.
One of the proposals that I am especially excited about is the possibility of turning Trenton and Commerce into one-way streets. It will make parking much easier and will allow additional utilization of the right-of-way for better access, walkability, seating, lighting, and safety. The plan also looks at providing more parking in the downtown area.
The one-way traffic will create better flow along Trenton Street and increase traffic along
Commerce Street, creating a prime area for redevelopment.
It is exciting to see the future downtown becoming a user-friendly business community with
retail, office, residential, and professional uses as West Monroe prepares for the future.
A.J. Burns is a real estate appraiser based in West Monroe.